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FLORENCE — Pinal County has paid $1,189,319 in grants to help businesses in the county’s unincorporated areas cover their losses in the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Board of Supervisors is considering making its Business Sustainability Program available for a third round of applications.

In all, 106 businesses received assistance, Joel Millman, director of Pinal County Workforce Development, told the board Wednesday.

The grand total includes 12 more checks that were being mailed Nov. 4 for a total of $153,164. Most of the applications, 57, were from “accommodations and food services,” followed by 44 from “retail trade.”

This Business Sustainability Program, paid for with a portion of Pinal County’s federal CARES Act funding, accepted applications in two rounds — phase one from June 15 to July 15, and phase two from Aug. 17 to Oct. 16.

Workforce Development staff personally handed out applications to 41 businesses in San Tan Valley, with none of them aware of the program. Twelve of those businesses ended up applying for a total of $156,166 in assistance.

Assistant County Manager Leo Lew said the total amount awarded approaches the total $1.5 million the county had estimated for the program. He said if the board wishes to offer a third round of applications, county staff could set aside a specific amount in a budget amendment for the board’s approval.

Supervisor Todd House, R-Apache Junction, said he’d like to see the program continue to help small businesses, “the backbone of our county,” stay alive and well in the pandemic. He said it doesn’t look like a new federal stimulus package is imminent, and businesses will feel the loss of Canadians and other winter visitors who are unable to return for the season. Other supervisors also signaled their interest in a third round.

Board Chairman Anthony Smith, R-Maricopa, asked if the county should change the program’s parameters, such as requiring businesses to show a 25% loss of revenue. Supervisor Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, said some businesses are “operating on much smaller margins,” and the county should consider compensating smaller losses.

Millman said he would confer with his staff and return to the board in a couple of weeks or so with a proposal for continuing the Business Assistance Program.

AAED awards

In other action Wednesday, the board recognized two awards from the Arizona Association for Economic Development.

Aaron Moon with Pinal County Workforce Development received Workforce Practitioner of the Year for the state of Arizona. Moon told the board, “I happened to be in the right place at the right time” and the credit really goes to Pinal County. But Smith said he’s been fortunate to see Moon’s work firsthand, and “the award is very well-deserved and they got the right guy.”

Tim Kanavel, Pinal County economic development director, presented the 2020 Organization of the Year Award to the Board of Supervisors. “Believe me, we take second place to nobody in this state, and this award certainly shows it,” Kanavel said. “This is an award by our peers that says ‘You guys have done better than all these other bigger groups together.’”

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.

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